(SGI) The European Commission is organizing a major conference on Nov. 17 on the recovery of the sports sector after the coronavirus crisis. The Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (Fesi), which has taken part in a survey that will be unveiled during the conference, said it hopes that its recommendations have been taken into account. It considers that sport and physical activity can help prevent diseases, that it can ensure physical and mental well-being during the crisis, and that it can help patients to recover.

Similar statements have been made by sports officials in France, Spain and other countries to call for the reopening of gyms, swimming pools and sports shops during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which now has its epicenter in Europe.

“To make this public health role more of a reality, it is crucial that sport and physical activity are integrated in all future policy measures and a central element of national recovery strategies”, said Jérôme Pero, secretary general of Fesi.

According to a survey conducted by Fesi before the announcement of the second series of lockdowns, more than 55 percent of the European sporting goods companies were already projecting a loss of between 10 and 30 percent in their turnover in 2020. Only 31 percent of them expected a loss of less than 10 percent. Aside from a reduction in the demand, the losses were due primarily to the closure of brick-and-mortar stores and border restrictions because of the Covid-19 epidemic. In fact, more than 75 percent of the respondents noted a recovery after the lockdowns.

Particularly strong concerns were raised by companies involved in the ski sector. A strongly negative impact was predicted by 57.1 percent of them even before the announcement of the newest restrictions on travel and retail. At that time, 85 percent of the respondents were expecting that more than 70 percent of the ski resorts would manage to stay open for the winter 2020/21 season.

For about one-third of the companies, between 30 and 65 percent of the sales losses in the first half of this year were related to the lockdowns implemented during the first wave of the outbreak, but 37.5 percent of them were able to offset them with an increase of more than 80 percent in online sales. On the other hand, e-commerce compensated for only up to 15 percent of the losses from the retail lockdowns for 31 percent of the respondents, and for 30 to 65 percent of the losses for 31 percent of them.

In terms of operations, 87 percent of the companies in the industry resorted to remote working, demonstrating “the rapid adaptability of the sector,” said Fesi, but 31 percent had to dismiss employees, said the federation, indicating that they were mostly temporary layoffs. Only one-fourth of the companies faced a shortage of workers after the lockdowns of last spring.

On the other hand, none of the respondents indicated that it might go bankrupt because of the pandemic, and 69 percent of them said they were confident of an economic recovery in 2021. About half of them said they were satisfied with loans and other forms of aid given by public authorities, landlords and others to boost their liquidities, but the survey indicated that companies in France, Italy, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and Germany had – in descending order – the greatest difficulties in obtaining financial support to help overcome the crisis.

The survey also showed that the implementation of sanitary protocols has led to additional average costs estimated at €100,000 per company, including the smaller ones.

The sports brands affiliated with Fesi had to deal with a multitude of unharmonized rules, some of which were contradictory between one country and the other. Fesi says the respondents to the survey expressed an urgent need for common criteria across the European Union in the categorization of the risks of infection in order to develop harmonized health protocols.

Photo: © Anastasiia Chepinska on Unsplash